Conference Plenary Speaker Spotlight: Fr. Vincent Meconi


Fr. Vincent Meconi will be one of the plenary speakers at the Aquinas Center for Theological Renewal’s conference, Mother Teresa and the Mystics: Toward a Renewal of Spiritual Theology. 

In his lecture, “Touching Jesus Today: The Mystical Body & Mother Teresa,” Fr. Meconi will situate St. Teresa of Calcutta in the glorious line of Christians who prayed and worked so as to meet Christ in Christ’s people, especially the poor.  How she structured her prayer life, her hope for liturgy, and her entire desire to be with the marginalized was all in order to meet the thirsty Jesus.  How she did that, how she appropriated key theological elements of the Church Fathers and Medieval Doctors, and why this is a call for all of us will be the major themes of this paper.

Fr. Meconi will give the closing address at 5:00 pm on Saturday, February 11th, in the Bob Thomas Student Union Ballroom.

In celebration of the canonization of Teresa of Calcutta in September 2016, the Aquinas Center for Theological Renewal at Ave Maria University will take an in-depth look at the legacy of her life and writings in the context of the great mystics of the Catholic tradition as well as of spiritual theology, also known as ascetical and mystical theology.  The conference will bring together scholars from the across the sub-disciplines of theology and related fields to explore Mother Teresa’s life and writings in conversation with the broader tradition of Catholic mysticism and theology.

Ave Sends More Than 200 to March for Life


What a day on the Washington mall today! Ave Maria University was well-represented at this year’s March for Life with 200 students praying, marching, and putting their faith into action.  I’ve attached a photo to give you a glimpse of our wonderful students.  It was great to be with them – and I had a nice visit with the delegation of 50 from the Donahue Academy, too!

It also was nice to see the Vice President of the United States at the podium addressing the vast throng of attendees.  President Obama had banished the stage for speakers to a distance away from the line of sight of the South Lawn of the White House but today it was back to the same location where President Bush allowed the march to be staged – in the shadow of the Washington Monument.

The first report of The Washington Post ends with a quote from one of Ave Maria’s students.  I have copied the link below.  It is nice to see our University’s voice amplified in the national media – in the unlikeliest of places, too!

The Conference: In Short


Student Government leaders from Benedictine College, University of Mary, and University of Dallas joined us last weekend for a conference, and we couldn’t be happier.

Not only did we build friendships, but we also exchanged ideas that will lead toward the improvement of our institutions and, hopefully, Catholic higher education.

Our guests arrived Friday, January 20, and joined us for a quick tour, dinner, and meet and greet. The real action began on Saturday morning. Beginning with Mass by “Padre,” we learned about St. Agnes’ commitment to loving Christ. We then started with presentations from each school, which helped us get context and better understand our peer schools and their students. Later in the day, we were joined by Dr. Seana Sugrue, who challenged us to think about tough decisions, and how to work through them. After that, we discussion more in-depth the culture and events on our campuses, which moved smoothly into leadership and how our governments operate. Finally, we discussed where we envision The Network going in the future.

We were truly honored to host our guests. It seems that we all started wondering if this idea, one of a “network” for Catholic schools would really work in this age of competition. However, we are now confident that this idea is one worth pursuing. There is so much potential, and with the right mindset, it was obvious that our new friends are extremely talented and motivated.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be posting a series of articles giving more detail about what we learned. We hope you will join us in learning from our friends.

Eileen Plunkett wins SWFL Symphony Society Scholarship


AMU student Eileen Plunkett recently won the Southwest Florida Symphony Society Scholarship, a $1000 award that will go to her continued music studies at Ave Maria University. For the scholarship competition, Plunkett performed “Mein Herr Marquis” from Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss II, “Con Que la Lavare,” by Joaquin Rodrigo, and “Art is Calling For Me,” from The Enchantress by Victor Herbert.

“I was nervous—as any performer would be before a big competition,” Plunkett says about the event. “Yet, I felt very prepared and confident. I love performing more than anything and I was excited to have an opportunity to compete with other accomplished musicians.”

Eileen Plunkett is double majoring in Business and Music with a concentration in Voice. On campus, she has been involved with the Drama Club’s annual “Night on Broadway,” and she has performed in many departmental concerts. Plunkett transferred to AMU in Fall 2016.

“My short time at AMU has blessed me with so many gifts,” she remarks. “The professors, students, and the AMU community are so very special. AMU is equipping students with the knowledge to be successful in their chosen fields while simultaneously emphasizing the importance of the Catholic faith in their everyday lives. …  I am so blessed that God has brought me here to be a musician [and] a student.”

The SWFL Symphony Society Scholarship enables high school and college students interested in music to win scholarships towards an organized music program.

Congratulations, Eileen!

Student Spotlight: Nicholas Cummons


Nick Cummons, well-known around campus for being the Jesus-loving skater dude from Ohio, has a bright future ahead of him. He is a senior, graduating in May with a degree in Economics and a minor in Business Administration. Nick recently accepted a job offer from Collier County Public Schools as a substitute teacher and will continue to spread his infectious joy to the kids of Immokalee through his service. He and his fiancée, Hailey McNeely, plan on staying close to Ave after graduation.

Why did you choose the career for which you are preparing?

I initially spoke to Hailey about this when she was a Theology major because she has such a charism for teaching and working with children. I told her that if she wanted to change the world and change the way people live their lives, she should be a teacher. I always kind of wanted to be one, but I never gave it much thought because I was an Econ major and I just assumed that was where my life was headed. Not too long after I spoke to Hailey, I read a Career Services blog about Collier County Public Schools, and it was at that time that I was talking to Zach and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Being a teacher worked its way to the top of my list of possible job opportunities and we agreed that I should try to pursue a career in teaching. I learned that CCPS had a desire to hire more Ave students because of their outstanding work ethic, so I got a trial run with them and essentially got a job as a substitute teacher to try to see if this is really want I want to do. I guess I chose trial by fire.

What does a typical day at CCPS look like for you?

Well, the day of a substitute is always interesting. Each day is a new class and a fresh start, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. I have actually taken a job for the next month with the same class every other day (and college classes on my other days). That will be my first time being able to build longer standing relationships with the students and the school staff. Up until now, I have been going to different elementary schools in Immokalee as well as the middle school almost every day. After signing in at the office and asking a billion questions about the brand new school that I’ve never been to (which has been the case almost every time so far) and receiving my lesson plans for the day that the teacher has left me for their class, I usually scramble for the next 30 minutes preparing to deliver the lesson that the teacher intended all while trying to learn the routines of the classroom and the school. After my scrambling time, I pick up the students in my homeroom from wherever in that school that they meet in the morning and then go about class as normal (usually with a million questions about who I am, since I’m still a new face), or at least as normally as it can go with a substitute. I facilitate the classroom activities as best as I can, from interactive computer programs on the whiteboard to simple math worksheets, social studies readings and discussions, and homework reviews. At some point, I drop the students off at lunch and during this time I get to eat lunch, catch my breath, and ask the other teachers for advice, tips, and help. It’s pretty straightforward, except for the part where it could be an entirely new set of faces in front of me every day with an entirely new lesson plan/classroom structure. It’s awesome and crazy.

Building Momentum


As we enter into 2017, we’ve got momentum! This semester, over two-hundred students, faculty, administrators, and Board of Trustees members gathered for the historic groundbreaking of the new multi-purpose academic building at AMU. The $11 million dollar building, which is scheduled for completion by the Fall of 2018, will house a new nursing lab, campus ministry offices, faculty offices, over 37,000 sq. ft. of classroom space, and two new auditoriums: a 400-seat performance hall and a 125-seat auditorium specially designed for the nationally-recognized Shakespeare in Performance program.

The new addition to the university is more than just a building, it’s a symbol of growth and progress at Ave Maria. As our founder Tom Monaghan said in his speech, “there’s a reason there hasn’t been a building built here in six or seven years.” The university has experienced growing pains since its beginning in 2003. From its initial relocation to Southwest Florida in 2007, to struggles in 2009 with financing the women’s Megadorm, to fighting against the Federal Government’s mandate to provide contraceptive services on health plans for employees and students at the risk of fines that would bankrupt the university, Ave Maria has seen its share of struggles. But as President Towey said, “Just
as the serpent was powerless to harm Our Lady’s blessed Jesus, this university, as it remains true to its founding in faith and remains humble, will not simply survive challenges, but thrive through them.”

And thrived it has. Undergrad student enrollment has grown 70% since 2011, while recently added majors such as Accounting, Education, and Nursing provide a unique opportunity for graduates of AMU to carry the light of Christ to a wider range of workplaces.

gyrenegazette.com

Championing Charity


In the spring of 2016, just before baseball season began, Andrew Nussbaum broke his wrist. Despite this blow to his athletic career, Andrew still had many ambitions for himself. Seeking President Towey’s advice, Andrew went to him wondering what the next step in his life would be. He wanted to know where he was going and how to get there. President Towey startled him by looking him straight in the eye and telling him, “My goal is to get you to heaven.” Before all business, career and athletic ambitions, President Towey showed Andrew that faith must be the priority. President Towey urged Andrew to go on a fifteen-day mission trip to Mexico City and work with the Missionary of Charity brothers. Andrew was reluctant to go at first, and described his first four days there as a “miserable and distraught” experience. He simply couldn’t understand why the brothers were so illuminated with joy when they had nothing. They were “tying shoes like it was the World Series and playing go fish like it was some sort of party.” Andrew couldn’t see why. It was all so bizarre.

Then the breakthrough came. Andrew came to see the brothers in a different light. He realized that in every single thing they did, the brothers were “willing the good of another” and constantly forgetting themselves. It was through this dying-to-self that the brothers were becoming more fully human. This realization was eye-opening for Andrew and caused him to apply this idea to every aspect of his life. Service became a gateway for his faith to reach new heights and spread beyond himself. By seeking to will the good for another, Andrew was given the opportunity to help more people than he could have ever imagined.

The Aquinas Center for Theological Renewal Announces Dr. Matthew Levering as the 2016 Recipient of the Veritas Medal


Aquinas Center for Theological Renewal

At the start of the Master Seminar weekend, there was a ceremony for the renowned Dr. Matthew Levering where he was presented with the Aquinas Center for Theological Renewal’s Veritas Medal by Drs. Roger Nutt and Michael Dauphinais. Dr. Nutt began introducing us to Dr. Levering by giving us a small sample from his very lengthy curriculum vitae. A prolific writer, Dr. Levering has made a name for himself by engaging with modern and contemporary authors and bringing their insights and questions into conversation with St. Thomas and Scripture.

Here is a small sample of some of his more than twenty published monographs:

  • Engaging the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit: Love and Gift in the Trinity and the Church (Baker Academic, 2015).
  • Proofs of God: Classical Arguments from Tertullian to Barth (Baker Academic, 2016).
  • Was the Reformation a Mistake?  Why Catholic Doctrine is Not Unbiblical,  With a response by Kevin Vanhoozer (Zondervan, 2017).
  • Participatory Biblical Exegesis: A Theology of Biblical Interpretation  (University of Notre Dame Press, 2008).
  • Ezra and Nehemiah: A Theological Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2007).
  • Sacrifice and Community: Jewish Offering and Christian Eucharist (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005).

Dr. Denise McNulty: Striving To Be a Servant of Human Life


Dr. Denise McNulty, DNP, MSN, RN-BC, ARNP, has been busy the last two years getting AMU’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program off the ground, but she has also found time to pursue her own research interests and remain connected to the larger community of nurses and nurse practitioners. In all that she does, McNulty is focused on one of the central callings of Catholic healthcare—to be a “[guardian] and [servant] of human life” (Evangelium Vitae, 89).

McNulty, Associate Professor of Nursing and Department Chair,helped establish the B.S. in Nursing Program in Fall 2015; Spring 2017 will see the program’s first cohort graduate and begin entering the field. The process of building a program from the ground up is a challenging one, but McNulty has proven herself capable to balance this project with her duties as a teacher, scholar, and neighbor.

As a teacher, she has been offering courses in the Nursing Program such as Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing (NURS 350), Leadership and Management in Clinical Environments (NURS 450), Evidence-Based Nursing Practice (NURS 460), Introduction to Nursing (NURS 210), and Role Preparation (NURS 220). She has been walking her students through the foundations on which the practice of nursing is built; she has also been guiding them towards practical experience and networking opportunities. For instance, McNulty has secured invitations for AMU nursing students to attend the local Collier County Nurses dinner meetings—an opportunity for students to network with and learn from nurse leaders and staff nurses in the area, and to hear from notable guest speakers. AMU’s nursing faculty are also invited to attend these meetings.

As a scholar, McNulty has been actively pursuing her academic research interests and sharing her findings with peers. This past November, she delivered a presentation at the Florida Organization of Nurse Executives (FONE) Conference, which took place in Orlando, FL. In her evidence-based talk, “Promoting a Healthy Work Environment by Utilizing the Journey to Empowerment to Enhance Nurses’ Sense of Empowerment,” McNulty presented the findings from a study that was conducted at a local hospital. The study found that offering nurses professional development, specifically through the Journey to Empowerment for Nurses seminar, may be an effective intervention in enhancing nurses’ perceived sense of empowerment, thereby making them more likely to use effective work practices which result in positive patient outcomes.

Diocese of Venice and AMU Announcement


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AVE Maria, Fla. – The Diocese of Venice in Florida and Ave Maria University announce today the purchase of the Ave Maria Oratory building by the Diocese from the University. The Oratory building now becomes the Ave Maria Parish Church for the Faithful in the Town of Ave Maria and the surrounding area. At the same time, Bishop Frank J. Dewane officially erected Ave Maria to Parish status.

The move to establish Ave Maria Parish comes as the Diocese seeks to better meet the expanding pastoral needs of the Parishioners of the Town of Ave Maria and the student body. The number of Parishioners and students has grown substantially since Bishop Dewane established Ave Maria as a “Quasi-Parish” in 2008, with the agreement of the University.

“By working together, the Diocese and the University have strengthened their relationship and ensure that the rapidly growing pastoral and spiritual needs of the Ave Maria community are being met,” said Bishop Dewane. “It is encouraging to see this vibrant faith-filled community, under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, continue to grow and strengthen.”

As an official Catholic University, Ave Maria uses its curriculum, teaching and research to serve the Church and community. Ave Maria University President, Jim Towey, praised the agreement which will usher in a new era at Ave Maria. “We are grateful to Bishop Dewane for his leadership and for this agreement that solidifies our relationship with the Diocese and the Town. The University and Parish have grown so fast and this new status accommodates these changes and builds a stronger foundation for the future under our Bishop’s leadership.”

University Founder and Chancellor, Thomas S. Monaghan, said this agreement will serve the University and community for generations to come. “I thank Bishop Dewane for working out this new agreement which is a win for the Town, University and Diocese,” Monaghan said. “It was my dream that the Church would be at the center of life for the University and Town of Ave Maria, and this agreement ensures that.”

Michael Timmis, Chairman of the Ave Maria University Board of Trustees, said the agreement has the full support of the Board. “I congratulate Bishop Dewane, Chancellor Monaghan, and President Towey for the efforts over the past year to negotiate this sale/purchase and the provision of land that will provide for the needs of the campus community and Parishioners well into the future.”

Because the Oratory building does not have sufficient grounds for standard Parish activities and operation, as part of the agreement, the University donated a 2.5-acre lot, and a 10-acre parcel of land was donated to the Diocese by Ave Maria Development. Bishop Dewane said the Diocese plans to use the land for the construction of a Parish Hall, Offices, and other related needs.